Having recently retired after thirty-six years as a Mechanical Engineer, I initially had visions of limitless golf and all the time in the world to explore my other hobbies such as freelance writing. Unfortunately, this preconception was naive at best!

As my wife is still working, I dutifully “volunteered” to do housework, but drew the line at cooking, much to the relief of those who value their health. I was not prepared, however, for the “other” things that manifest themselves in the day-to-day existence of a retired drone such as the graceful failure of just about every electronic and mechanical device on the property! What is graceful failure you may ask? Well, in essence it is an engineering term that signifies that a mechanical or electronic device will die with a minimum of fuss or detriment to the user. That is, it will give sufficient notice to allow one to take the necessary steps to avoid the total chaos that would result from the loss of use of the device. This assumes, of course, that one is monitoring said device for signs of incipient demise.

But have you ever counted up the vast number of devices of all natures which we now have in and around the modern home? In our kitchen, for example, we have a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, microwave oven, toaster oven, cordless phone and answering machine plus a myriad of assorted smaller appliances such as a wall clock, radio, food processor, electric knife, coffeemaker, coffee grinder, etc.

Our family room is an electronic wasteland stocked with a stereo radio/tape/CD player, speakers, TV (complete with descrambler, and converter), VCR, clock and ecologizer. This demands the use of four hand controllers (TV, converter, VCR and stereo) to properly make the entertainment side of the house work adequately. I say adequately as it is rare to find the proper controller and then remember how it works as each has its own diabolical operational concept. They are supposedly multi-purpose in being able to operate the other sister entertainment devices as well, but it seems only with regard to those features that you are absolutely not interested in! And, they use batteries!!! Ah yes, batteries (not included of course), the bane of civilization. Check them and they are OK; need them and they are inevitably dead! But I digress...

Apply this search to the rest of the house and you will be astonished with the result. And don’t forget big players like the central vacuum cleaner, air conditioner and furnace. As can be seen, the list is truly mind-boggling! Taken individually, their telltale pallor and death rattle is clearly evident. But collectively, their forecast of doom is lost in the scores of other sights and sounds that constitute modern living. The result? Catastrophic failures popping up at the most inconvenient times, always geared to stretch already overworked bank accounts to the breaking point. And as we all know, bank accounts do not fail gracefully!

Why does this happen, especially to a “techie” such as myself? Well folks, I have found the answer and you aren’t going to like it. This Stephen King scenario is orchestrated by our home computers!!! As you are all well aware, computers never fail gracefully. There is always the feeling of “gotcha” when the screen freezes, the mouse becomes road-kill, or you are left staring wide-eyed at the C:\ prompt where once your intricately crafted Christmas letter resided. No doubt it had just occurred to you that it would be a good idea to save the information, but of course you hadn’t quite got around to it.

Somehow the computer has organized all our labour-saving devices into a macabre union, perhaps communicating by way of the power outlets. This wouldn’t be much of a challenge here in Fallingbrook where power outages occur with annoying frequency, thus permitting alternate uses of the circuits for much of the time. This gadget death scheme is cleverly planned to cause humans the maximum in discomfort and despair! I also suspect that this has been spread surreptitiously to all other homes by way of the Internet!

I must be careful as I am using the word processor to write this and I don’t want the computer to get wind of what I xb dhnn xsk a x df . . .





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